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Given those concerns, in 2009 Congress repealed that requirement to automatically send ballots as part of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE Act). So for the 2010 and 2012 elections, states only have to send out absentee ballots to those military and overseas voters who specifically requested them in those particular elections.

2008 military/overseas ballot data underreports automatically sent ballots.

The impact of that law was substantial. Nationwide in 2008, states reported 231,000 military and overseas absentee ballots were sent automatically based on 2006 election ballot requests, and 346,000 were specifically requested in the 2008 election (412,000 more military and overseas ballots weren’t even categorized because the state reported data was so poor). That means nationwide about 40 percent of the ballots sent in 2008 were not requested in 2008 but were automatically sent because of ballot requests during the 2006 election.

Many of the states being analyzed in this election showed most of the ballots requested in the 2008 election were sent because of ballot requests from the prior election, not the 2008 election.

Unfortunately, many of the states discussed during this election cycle had exceptionally poor data collection systems in place during the 2008 election; the reported data is of dubious quality, with low reporting rates, lots of missing data, and inconsistent data between elections.

For example, even with that requirement discussed above to automatically send absentee ballots to any military and overseas voters who requested a ballot in the prior election, many states still reported thousands of absentee ballots requested in the 2006 election, but few or no ballots automatically transmitted in the 2008 election.

Therefore, it is very likely that the number of automatically transmitted ballots in these subject states during the 2008 election are much significantly underreported. This would mean that even fewer of the ballots sent in 2008 were specifically requested during that election, which in turn means that any comparison with 2012 is going to further underreport relative military and overseas voter registration in 2012.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email